Published February 13, 2009
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said it was "outrageous" that government attorneys would ignore his deadline for turning over documents.
Last month, Sullivan ordered the Justice Department to turn over all the agency's internal communications regarding a whistleblower complaint against the FBI agent leading the investigation into the former Alaska senator.
The agent, Chad Joy, bitterly complained about some Justice Department tactics during the trial, including not turning over evidence and an "inappropriate relationship" between another agent working the case and the prosecutor's star witness.
Stevens was convicted in October of lying on Senate disclosure documents about hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and home renovations from an Alaska businessman. In November, Stevens lost his bid for re-election to the Senate seat he had held since 1968.
Stevens and his lawyers complained during the trial about prosecutors withholding information. In December, they asked for his conviction to be tossed out. As part of their request, they asked for the documents related to Joy.
During Friday's hearing, Sullivan repeatedly asked three Justice Department attorneys sitting at the prosecution's table whether they had some reason not to turn over the documents. They finally acknowledged they did not, and Sullivan exploded into anger.
"That was a court order," he bellowed. "That wasn't a request. I didn't ask for them out of the kindness of your hearts. ... Isn't the Department of Justice taking court orders seriously these days?"
He said he didn't want to get "sidetracked" by deciding a sanction immediately and would deal with their punishment later. But he ordered them to produce the material by the end of the day.
"That's outrageous for the Department of Justice -- the largest law firm on the planet," he said. "That is not acceptable in this court."
Sullivan held all three attorneys sitting at the table in contempt and demanded repeatedly to know who else was involved in withholding the information. Another government attorney sitting in the back of the courtroom stood up and gave her name.